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Part 3: Alphabetic Anatomy - Teaching You Type

Part 3: Alphabetic Anatomy - Teaching You Type

In parts one and two we covered the absolute basics, and we looked at what “cases” mean. Now in part three let’s look at the skeletons of a sentence. That’s right. Sentence skeletons. Now, as a belated Halloween special we’ve got a lesson to spook the pants off of you.

Just like people, letters have an anatomy to them. Legs, arms, ears, shoulders, there’s all sorts of similarities. For this article we’re going to be using the font Garamond to show all the different parts of letters. Just remember that these concepts also apply to every other font out there. Without any further rambling, here's the anatomy of letters!

 

Stroke

Stroke

Strokes in letters are the main diagonal lines that make up the letter.

 

Counter

Counter

The completely enclosed space on the inside of a letter.

 

Loop

Loop

A loop is a counter which is connected to a letter but not part of the main body.

 

Bowl

Bowl

Bowls are the strokes that create the enclosed spaces called counters. 

 

Tail

Tail

The (usually curved) descender on the capital letters K, R, and Q. Occassionaly the descenders of some lowercase letters are also referred to as tails (such as in q, j, p, g, or y). 

 

Serifs

Serifs

The decorative elements on the ends of strokes. These can vary in thickness or style. In the case of sans-serif fonts they are completely excluded.

 

Spine

Spine

Just like your own back, a spine is the main structural curve of the letter S.

 

Link

Link

The small stroke connecting the two parts of a double-storey letter.

 

Descender

Descender

Descenders are the parts of letters that extend below the baseline.

 

Ascender

Ascender

The opposite of descenders, ascenders are the parts of letters that extend above the cap-height.

 

Spur

Spur

See that little sticky-outy bit at the bottom on the front G there? That’s called a spur.

 

Leg

Leg

A leg is a part of a letter that’s connected at one end and extends downward to a terminal or serif.

 

Arm

Arm

In typography, arms are just like legs, except they extend upwards rather than downwards.

 

Ear

Ear

Occasionally the lowercase g will have a small decorative stroke on the top right called an ear. 

 

Shoulder

Shoulder

The curved part of a stroke in letters like m, n, or h.

 

Terminal

Terminal

When a stroke ends without a serif, that part is called a terminal.

 

Stem

Stem

The main upright vertical stroke in a letter, or the first diagonal stroke in letters with non-vertical strokes, is the stem.

 

Bar

Bar

A horizontal stroke is called a bar. Occasionally a crossbar will also be called a bar.

 

Crossbar

Crossbar

The horizontal stroke connecting two other strokes. 

 

Challenge Time:

Now that you've studied up on all the different parts of letters, here's a challenge for you! Below is an image of all the letter parts we covered in this article. How many can you name without having to scroll back up and double check? Reach out to us on social media and let us know how you did!

Anatomy Lineup

 

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